Being an environmental scientist, I've spent years of my life living out of a tent in the field, and through extensive trial and error now have a pretty solid and stable repertoire in my pack. If you're new to backpacking and are planning a trip, here are my recommendations for reliable but affordable gear (just the basics!). These have all been field-tested by the pros (i.e. me and my field assistants :) ).
Click through after the break for many more gear recs!
A few weeks ago I visited a friend in Pennsylvania and we had the opportunity to spend a few days hiking the Black Forest Trail. This beautiful trail in central PA is a 42 mile loop, but we decided to just do the top half of the trail - the "North loop" - an easy (just kidding!) 23 mile trek that we tackled in about 48 hours. This is one of the views that met us near the end of our journey: the most amazing cairns I've ever seen! I guess these huge structures are built by decades upon decades of backpackers coming through and carefully piling one rock on top of another. They looked like ancient structures, and at first we wondered if they might be natural. After looking back on this hike, I wanted to type up some of my favorite camping recommendations
God damn is the Gila National Forest beautiful. The last time I was here was in 2004. I know. I was 17. I went back earlier this year and it was as breathtaking as I remembered. The thing that strikes me most about this part of the country is the diversity of habitats. Desert-ey scrublands, lush forests, amphibian-ridden streams, heart-jumpingly steep cliffs, and more.
I had the chance to visit this epic, architectural dream back when I was in PA for the Black Forest Trail hike. This isn't a traditional "getting outdoors" post, but somehow Wright's indoor spaces are so perfectly integrated with their natural surroundings that it really felt like an outdoorsy trip.
A few months back I visited a friend in Little Rock, Arkansas - my first visit to the state - and we decided to take a drive out to Petit Jean State Park, a nearby hiking spot with a magnificent waterfall. According to Wikipedia:
"Petit Jean was actually a young 18th century French woman. When she discovered that her fiance planned to explore the Louisiana Territory, she cut her hair, disguised herself as a boy and managed to find a position as a cabin boy. She survived the voyage and the expedition began their exploration. Once they had reached the area of the mountain, the young woman became ill, on her deathbed she revealed herself to her fiance, and was buried on the mountain, not under her own name, but under the name she had been known by on the ship 'Little John.' "
Okay, there's not much to say here, other than that I visited the Grand Canyon, and it was SPECTACULAR. I know, not much of a surprise, but it's always great when something exceeds your already-very-high expectations (and photographs well, too!). Would recommend, 13/10, worth visiting. Here are some photos.